The Sweet family struggles to find love enough love to give their children hope for the future. Mr. Sweet is not a happy man. He wants to live the life his late mother the one of fancy perfumes and grand hotels made him accustomed to. His wife Mrs. Sweet, may as well be married to the plants and flowers in the gardens she plants and tends to while acting as if she hates him. He wants only to play music on his harp and and be left alone. The only person he tolerates is his daughter Persephone whom he describes as “lovely.” He speaks as infrequently as possible. He hates his life and wishes to go back in time to the richness of the world his mother exposed him to. Marrying a brown skin woman when he is so light enough to pass for white is viewed as his largest mistake. That, and having children whom he can only tolerate. He doesn't seem to know that the towns people who come out to see him and instantly regret not staying at home. The music is boring, only Mr. Sweet doesn't realize he is not adored for the sounds that arise from his harp or his beloved piano.
As his son Heracles grows older he becomes more of a thorn in his father's side. His many toy figurines he collects from Happy Meal boxes purchased by Mrs. Sweet are left on the floor in order to cripple his father. Mr. Sweet believes that it is done on purpose each time. Mrs. Sweet dotes on Heracles, and in retaliation Mr. Sweet dotes on Persephone.
When Mr. Sweet falls ill, Mrs. Sweet puts down her knitting, and mending, and plants more in the garden to sustain the family. Cotton, indigo, and lots of sugarcane become the staples which area families come to depend on from the Sweets. The Sweet's depend on the neighbors purchases to keep their family afloat.
Mrs. Sweet arranges for many people to come and hear her husband play, and the day of the big concert he comes down with tendonitis and can't walk. He blames Mrs. Sweet for his affliction never thanking her for making sure the event would be well attended. He loves her but can't show it, nor can he tell her.
Foulness is in the air the day the utility company calls to receive payment and there is no money to pay for gas or lights. Mr. Sweet goes into a deep depression and can't help but think it would all be easier if he killed his family. He won't do it physically but he will kill them with hostile looks, words, and emotional abuse.
When Heracles becomes a teenager he hits a growth spurt towering over both his parents. Mr. Sweet takes this as a personal offense. Both parents worry incessantly over what the future holds for their children.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Sweet spend a lot of time in the past trying to figure out when and if they will grow back in love and reconnect as they had when they first courted. Mrs. Sweet remembers her mother with fondness and thanks her for sending her to school so that she would be able to read and write. She remembers how hard it was growing up in the Caribbean and that her life would be much worse if she had not attended school.
She views the Shirley Jackson house as a safe haven for her family. They will manage and she believes Mr. Sweet can somehow revert back to the man who used to love her.
Best part of story, including ending:
I did not like the way the constant trips and references to the past.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Mrs. Sweet purchased a chemistry set for Persephone.
Opinion about the main character:
I didn't like Mrs. Sweets lack of interaction with her daughter.